Sometimes you will have to describe the stages/steps you perform to complete something that either your company or you do at work. Unfortunately, most of the times that you will have to describe these tasks/processes are in important situations (e.g. in a job interview, presentation, speaking to a potential or existing customer etc...).

So, it is important that you can not only explain this workflow in both a clear and understandable way, but that you also use professional sounding vocabulary to do it.

In this first of two online exercises on 'work/business processes', I'll both show you and explain the professional English vocabulary used for talking about the different processes used to perform tasks in service industries (e.g. banking, insurance, travel etc...).

After you have done this exercise, I would recommend that you do the second part of this exercise to learn further processes.


Exercise: Describing what you do in your job

Read the following conversation between two friends where one (Peter) describes to the other (Juan) what the team he runs in a bank does.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'You work as a manager at a bank, don't you?'

Peter:'Yes, I do. But I don't actually work in a branch like you find on the high/main street in any town or city. I work in the loans department in the bank's head office.'

Juan:'So, what do you do?'

Peter:'Do you want me to tell you? It's not exciting.'

Juan:'Yes, I do.'

Peter:'I am the manager of a team that is responsible for both processing loan requests from existing customers of the bank (people who already have a bank account with us) and deciding whether we should give them the money/loan.'

Juan:'How do you do that?'

Peter:'If somebody wants to borrow money from us to buy a house, a car etc..., they first have to submit a loan request to the bank. They do this by either completing an online form on the bank's website or by completing a paper form and sending it to the bank.

If the person completed a loan request form on paper, their form is then inputted on to the bank's loan application system by another of the teams in the office here. That team has to manually enter all the form's information by hand on to the system.'

Juan:'So, how does your team get the loan requests?'

Peter:'All the loan requests for the bank's existing customers are automatically sent to my team either directly from the website or from the loan application system when they have been inputted.

When we have received them, each request is then allocated to a different member of my team. From that point, that loan request is their responsibility to process.'

Juan:'How do you decide who to allocate/give each loan request to on your team?'

Peter:'It depends on how many loan requests each member of my team is dealing with at that time. If one of my team is working on less requests than others, they are automatically allocated the request.'

Juan:'How long does it take them to process a loan request?'

Peter:'There is a 5 day turnaround time for each request to be processed. So we have to make a decision within 5 working days for each request we receive in our team.'

Juan:'When you say working days, that doesn't include Saturdays or Sundays does it?'

Peter:'That's right. If we receive a loan request on Wednesday, we have to process the request and make a decision by the following Tuesday at the latest.

But loans request which are for a large amount of money (e.g. over $40,000), are prioritized. These loan requests are very important and the bank makes a lot of money from them. So, these are not only allocated to the most experienced members of my team, but they also have to be done quicker. So they have a 3 working day turnaround time.'

Juan:'And what happens if you don't process a loan request within the turnaround time?'

Peter:'My team has to meet set targets. One of the set targets is to complete all loan requests within the turnaround time (i.e. 5 or 3 days). If we don't, then the team is penalised.'

Juan:'So your team is punished for not completing a loan request in time?'

Peter:'Yeah. Every late loan request we complete reduces the bonus (extra money) the team receives at the end of the year.'



Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

In business, all the days of the week except the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) are called

         

Working days:
(noun) 'working days' means the days of the week which most companies operate on. In most countries, this is Monday to Friday. These five days are called 'working days'.

When companies deal with customer requests, orders or enquiries, they normally inform them of the amount of time it will take to process them. If a customer makes an order with a company on a Tuesday and they are told that it will take 7 'working days' to be delivered. They will expect to receive their order not on the following Tuesday, but on the following Thursday (because Saturdays and Sundays are not 'working days').

In addition, if there is a bank/public holiday where most companies are closed (e.g. Christmas Day or Easter Monday), this day is also not considered a 'working day'.

In Spanish: "días laborables ".

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Working days:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2.

A different way to say 'punished' which is often used in business, is

         

Penalised:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to penalise'. This is a synonym of 'to punish'. It is commonly used in business because it sounds better (less aggressive) than 'punish', but it basically means the same thing.

When talking about business processes, this like many other verbs is often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be punished'). For example, 'any staff who are late to work are penalised with a hour reduction in their monthly salary'.

In Spanish: "penalizar".

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Penalised:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3.

The amount of time that it takes something to be done/completed after it was started/received, is called the

         

Turnaround time:
(noun) This phrase is commonly used in business. It means the amount of time that it takes a process to be completed (i.e. from when it was received to when it was completed). For example, 'the turnaround time for the customer order was 3 days'.

Most companies have fixed/set 'turnaround times' for certain processes they do (like a time limit). This means that the process has to be completed within this set time. This is common with customer orders, enquiries, repairs etc...

For example, 'The turnaround time for answering customer enquiries is 24 hours. Customers have to be provided with an answer within this time.'

In Spanish: "el tiempo necesario/requerido hacer algo".

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Turnaround time:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4.

A task or process that you have to do by hand and can take a long time, is done

         

Manually:
(adverb) When something has to be done by hand (whether it is inputting data on to an application with a keyboard or making/doing something with your hands), it is called a 'manual' task/process.

When talking about business processes, verbs are often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be created'). So if you want to say that a process is 'manual', you would use the adverb 'manually'. For example, 'the reports are manually created by me'.

The opposite of 'manually' is 'automatically'.

In Spanish: "manualmente".

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Manually:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5.

A phrase which is used to introduce what the main purpose is of either your job or your team, is

         

Is responsible for:
(phrase) You use this when you want to tell somebody about the main thing(s) you do (your main responsibilities) at work. You should always tell people what the main purpose(s) is of either your job or your team/department before explaining the individual processes/tasks that are used to achieve it. If you don't, people listening to you will probably get confused.

The purpose(s) are always said after this phrase and as a gerund (e.g. contacting, organising etc...). For example, 'I'm responsible for generating reports for the company'.

You shouldn't use 'to be responsible for' when describing what a company/business does. You should use a verb instead (e.g. sells, buys, advises, makes etc...). For example, 'my company sells insurance'.

In Spanish: "es responsable de/por".

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Is responsible for:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6.

When a task or piece of work is 'given' to a person to do, it is

         

Allocated:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to allocate'. It's basically a more professional sounding way to say 'give' or 'assign' somebody a task/piece of work to complete. You would use 'allocate' when you want to say both that work is distributed to different people in a team to do and how it is done. For example, 'every call received in the call centre is randomly allocated to a different member of staff'.

When talking about business processes, this like many other verbs is often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be allocated'). In addition, 'allocate' is followed by 'to' and the name of the type of people they are given to. For example, 'all enquiries are allocated to a different customer service assistant to answer'.

In Spanish: "asignar".

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Allocated:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7.

When you have to achieve a fixed objective in your job (e.g. make a certain number of sales, process a certain number of requests etc...), you have to

         

Meet set targets:
(phrase) This basically means you 'have to achieve a certain level of performance' (e.g make a certain number of phone calls per hour). If you don't, you will penalised in some way (a person could even lose their job). It is used by companies to motivate their staff to work harder (staff who surpass/go over their 'set target' are often rewarded with a gift or money).

In most companies, it is not only staff who have 'set targets' to meet/achieve, but also teams and departments.

In Spanish: "cumplir los objetivos marcados".

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Meet set targets:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8.

A task or process that is done by a computer or a machine without you having to do anything, is done

         

Automatically:
(adverb) When something doesn't have to be done by hand/manually, it is called a 'automated' task/process. Normally 'automated' tasks are done by machines (e.g. cutting pieces of wood or metal in a factory etc...) or by a computer (e.g. analysing data etc...).

When talking about business processes, verbs are often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be created'). So if you want to say that a process is 'automated', you would use the adverb 'automatically'. For example, 'the reports are automatically created by the computer application'.

The opposite of 'automatically' is 'manually'.

In Spanish: "automáticamente".

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Automatically:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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9.

When data or information is added on to a computer application/program by hand/manually, it is

         

Inputted:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to input'. This means to enter data or information on to a computer system or application. Normally, when people say that something is 'inputted' they mean that it entered manually (by somebody typing on a keyboard) onto the system/application.

When talking about business processes, this like many other verbs is often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be inputted'). In addition, when you use 'input', it is followed by 'onto' and the name of system/application it is added to. For example, 'all enquiries are inputted onto the customer service database'.

In Spanish: "entrar".

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Inputted:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10.

When you treat some things as more important than other things, is

         

Prioritized:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to prioritize'. Basically, it means to treat something as more important than something else. Companies do this because they know that somethings could or do have more impact (either positive or negative) on their business. For example, a computer problem only affecting 10 people in the company will have less impact on the business than another computer problem affecting 10,000 people.

Normally, when tasks or pieces of work 'are prioritized' they are done more quickly and allocated to more senior or experienced staff to do.

When talking about business processes, this like many other verbs is often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be prioritized'). For example, 'if the problem affects one of the directors in the company, it is prioritized and allocated to a senior member of the team to be fixed'.

In Spanish: "priorizar".

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Prioritized:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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11.

A different way to say 'apply for' or 'send in' a request/form/enquiry to a company, is

         

Submit:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to submit'. In this context, it means to send a type of document (normally a form) to somebody where you want them to either do something (e.g. process an order, repair something etc...) or make a decision on something (e.g. a request for a loan, consider you for a job vacancy, enter a competition etc...).

Normally, 'submit' is only used when people send some type of form or document (e.g. a CV/resume etc...). You don't use it when people send in just an email.

When talking about business processes, this like many other verbs is often used in the passive form (i.e. 'to be submitted'). For example, 'once an order is submitted on the website, an email is sent directly to the customer'.

In Spanish: "presentar/enviar".

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Submit:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Click here to learn more business processes in the second part of this exercise.



Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.